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We didn't just play Nintendo in the 80s. We ate Nintendo cereal. It wasn't very good, it got soggy in air, and all of the shapes looked more like seahorses or turds than Mario, but it identified you as a rad to the extreme Nintendo player. Now you didn't have to just let your ass know how much you loved Nintendo with every painful wedgie, you could tell your spoon too. I knew a friend who had the Nintendo robot mom to pour it for him, but one day he was breast feeding and he doubled in size and grew wings. It's not a great story, I just thought it was weird the testers let her get distributed before anyone tried putting her robot boobs in their mouth.

The Nintendo Cereal System and Nintendo Power glass bowls (inset). Just in case you thought breakfast was taking away too much time from video games.

But that's nothing. I don't care if you cover your cereal with Metroid-shaped bananas and have Donkey Kong pee milk on it. You weren't a true NES fan unless you bought the $19.95 Secret Video Game Tricks, Codes, & Strategies videocassette tape hosted by "Jim and Donn." I know you think twenty dollars is a lot for a half hour video with tips on 5 or 6 games, but that's why you grew up watching WKRP in Cincinnatti and not saving princesses. Twenty dollars was nothing. We spent fifty dollars for Deadly Towers and hundreds of other games that were so bad they made us fear electricity.

And yes. On the cover of the video, holding the sword: Fabio. The Fabio.

Our Hosts

Whoever made the video decided it needed more credibility for the hosts, and the reassuring second N at the end of Donn's name and Jim's thumbs up weren't enough. So they made up important titles for them. Donn and Jim suddenly became the U.S. National Video Game Team. And to make it official, they bought themselves matching jumpsuits. Fucking jumpsuits*. As far as I know, our country does not have a video game team. And if these two clumsy geeks are who we found to represent us, Canada finally has the weak spot they were looking for to start making fun of us.

*Recent studies do not indicate that jumpsuits increase video game performance. However, these studies show that if you put on a video game team jumpsuit, you might as well take off your genitals.

You'll notice right off that the Video Game Team members aren't very good at video games. And they don't make up for it with good broadcasting skills. If they're not reading to you from the instruction manual in fragmented sentences, they're awkwardly breathing hard into the microphone while they play. After 30 minutes of the video, you learn as much about Nintendo as you do from bathroom graffiti but without all the clever rhyming. I don't know how they got this job, I'm guessing they must be best friends with the janitor that donated his mop closet for the set. The whole damn thing is like letting a friend play your Nintendo badly with their feet. Only they don't talk, you hate them, and they're dressed like an insane housepainter.

Jim gives us a thumbs up as if to say, "It's A-OK that you're in my secret base! Thumbs up for Nintendo! Thumbs up for YOU!"

The Learning Begins

One of the first "tips" Donn gives us is that Silkworm is true to the arcade version with all of the hidden bonus points. That helps a lot, Donn. Then he stops talking and lets us watch him play for about 10 minutes. And trust me, I don't care if you've had someone sell you insurance at church, it's the longest 10 minutes of your life. It looks like the key to winning the game is NOT getting hit by enemies. This lesson is worth the $19.95 alone, since you can apply it in your regular life when you're playing in traffic or dodging the cleansing water that comes out of a "shower."

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Guerilla War, Breathing Excercises

Later in the tape they give us some brilliant hints to beat Guerilla war. We've already learned from their last tips that our country's video game team can't talk and play games at the same time. It's at this point we start to realize that they have trouble doing either one by themselves. Donn's first hint for level 5 is to "use your lasso to save the hostages." Then he manages to miss almost every hostage while the microphone is next to his controller so we can hear him panting AND clumsily smashing the buttons at the wrong time.

After that, they turn off his microphone and he plays silently for a few levels. He doesn't do anything helpful. In fact, he spends almost all his time headbutting bullets and shooting friendly hostages with a flame thrower. He doesn't speak again until level nine when he says, "To get to the tenth and final round of guerilla war, you must first fight through level 9."

"Level Nine? What the fuck happened to Level Ten? ...Oooooooh."

Later he added, "be sure to breathe through your nose and not your ear to avoid asphyxiation." I hear he's doing a love advice column now where he gives tips like, "To attain a life of celibacy, concentrate on finding a video game champion jumpsuit. Pull the front zipper UP to attain the closed jumpsuit." Look, I know all of the government funding and fantastic parking places you can get by hiring the handicapped, but please don't dress them up in uniforms and send them off to teach kids how to play Nintendo.

Donn, not giving a fuck so hard, it's burning calories.

How to Not Give a Shit About The 3 Stooges

Next, the US Video Game Team gave us their help with The 3 Stooges, a shitty game almost 3 kids owned, and less than 1 cared about doing well in. It was based on the show that taught us how funny it is to kick an ugly person's ass, and the point of the game was to raise money to save an orphanage by throwing pies at people and running through a crowded hospital. I know it sounds like it's just a bad joke, and it might be, but I didn't write it. That's really what you do in this game.

Well, it's what they attempted to do.

Here's a special tip to win, straight from the masters: "In the hospital scene concentrate on picking up the supplies while avoiding the patients." This tip is really unfair to the kids that couldn't afford to buy the tape. Think of the advantage they would have with someone reading the game's instructions to them from their VCR. You don't think that would help that much!? What if I reminded you that the person stuttering at them was wearing a JUMPSUIT.

And if you doubt them, they're fucking out of here. They've got bitches waiting in the car.

Later in the tape, they follow up with this tip: "If your Nintendo-compatible video game system is not working, first check to see if the power in your parent's basement is ON. Use the "DOOR LOCK" to keep the parents from walking in on you while you hump your Nintendo-compatible cartridge."

And that's how Rygar was conceived.

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They Teach You Something, and Make You Pay Dearly

In Blaster Master, their tip is to throw a bomb on the bad guy and pause the game when it hits. While the game is paused, it keeps hitting the bad guy. I know, it sounds like a good tip! That doesn't stop you from hating them, though. They don't just tell you to pause and assume you know what one minute and fifteen seconds is. No. They show you. You get to watch the entire minute go by - no fast forward, no cut, no anything. But it's not one minute of dead silence. Like I said, the grenade still goes off while it's paused.

And it sounds like this: "BYUBYUBYUBYUBYUBYUBYUBYUBYU!!!!"

Keep in mind that when this tape came out, we didn't have mute buttons on our remotes. If we did, we'd miss out on the end to this tip: "Press the Start Button to UNpause. The enemy boss is destroyed." As an extra help, they zoom in on their controller to show us exactly HOW to press the Start Button. You will seriously want to punch your country's National Video Game Team in the ear after this tape, and anyone that says differently is either lying or doesn't have hands.

"Here to explain the process of pushing UP, controller expert James Henkle."

A Complex Strategy for a Complex Game

My favorite tip comes from John Elway's Quarterback, where the programmers cleverly hid a very secret bonus. Select the "Reverse Play" and your guy runs three times faster than the defense. You don't need to hold down left and button W on controller 3 while you select it. All you have to do is call that play, and every time you do it, your players get super powers. And since there are only about 9 plays you can call in this game, it seems like most kids would have found this secret on their own in 9 or less downs.

But it's a secret. So don't tell anyone.

While supergamer Jim is showing us how to do this complicated trick, he runs his player up and down the field and around in circles for a few minutes. It's confusing why they showed this already, but then it gets worse. While he's doing it, a video of his face gets inset on the screen. I don't know why they did it. Were they trying to make children cry, or did they just want to make it very clear that he wasn't enjoying himself? A football player running aimlessly in circles, a close up of a half dead mutant kid staring at a game he hates... it's like East German surrealistic filmmaking meets the production values of a local used car commercial.

He doesn't actually say it out loud, but someone watching the tape will say this for him: "Duhhhhh..."

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Things Really Go to Shit

The Super Dodge Ball tip is where the tape falls apart even more. It's not just a train wreck anymore. It's a train filled with radioactive explosives hitting a guitar-shaped boat full of nuns. Donn shares his Dodge Ball mastery with you by showing you "a special technique" to perform the "killer throw" in case you covered your game manual in something you don't want to touch. First, you push twice on the joystick to run (the camera zooms in on his controller for this in case you haven't come across the words "push" or "twice" before). Now press the A button (Yes. They show you how.) when your guy's at the middle line. If you do this right, the ball glows.

Donn does not do it right.

Then he doesn't do it right again. Then again. And again. By four screw ups it starts to reach a hilarious point. By five the laughter stops and it turns tragic. When six happens, it gets unbelievable, but by seven straight failed "killer throws" it gets to that point where he seems retarded enough to need a hug for trying. I don't know why they didn't edit this out, and I don't know why the U.S. video game teamer was having trouble with hitting one button correctly. All I know is that I hope he has another National title for something he's actually good at. He is a groundbreaking artist, this is the first How-To tape I've seen where the person giving the instruction openly can't even come close to doing what he's helping us with.

Even in victory, his teammates are ashamed.

Things Really Go to Shit

The ending credits are broken up with a bunch of clips of someone in Wizards in Warriors hopping in a corner while bats chew them to death. Sometimes this takes up to 30 seconds. Each time they finally die, a bong sound effect goes off and they go back to the credits. I've thought about why they might have done this for two days, and I've decided that there is no acceptable reason for it. Those fucking insane bastards could walk up to me in their uniforms and tell me they did it because Jesus personally asked them to, and it still wouldn't be good enough.

Not a single drug in the world could make them - No. I refuse to think about it anymore.

The final screen invites us to send in our own hint. I can't imagine what they didn't cover, but if you think you have something for their next video let them know.

If this Video Was a Saturday Night Live Skit: It would be one of the painful ones thrown on at the end about a character with something hilariously wrong with them that starts with a jingle about them. Something like "Mr. Can't Make Change! This week's episode: Mr. Can't Make Change gets a job as a store clerk!" WAH-WAH-WAAAAAAAH

Yeah, they pretty much all work.

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You know, I spent two hours and a bottle of vodka coming up with all those theories about the US National Video Game Team, and all it takes is one email from a dude in a jumpsuit to fuck them all up. After originally publishing this article, I got this actual letter from a US Video Game Team Representative:


Hello. Thanks for taking the time to post all that stuff about the team. I'm lmao at all that.

FYI - some background info on The U.S. National Video Game Team and the tape(s) there were three, yes, three of the god awful things, hehe.

It really did exist (not created by Jim or myself) and was sponsored by Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard and (later) Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. It's now back in the hands of TGIS, I think. You can read more about it in the book "Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records" by Sunstar Publishing. It has the complete history back to the early to mid-80's. We competed against other teams from around the world (mainly the UK, Japan).

(I'm also listed in the book about 18 times for records as well as the Guinness Book of World Records (1985-87 US edition) eight times including, get this, being the third person listed in the Video Game Hall of Fame as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Record (1985 I think), haha. So I can play.) As a matter of fact, the next big competion is June 1 and 2 at Weirs Beach, NH (Fun Spot arcade).

Donn, the one writing the email, is on the left. He continues...

As far as the lame video tapes - Our boss calls us up and sends us to the studio with a box full of games. No real clue what we're there for. There was no script and as you mentioned absolutely no editing (I guess they thought it would be fun to show us play from start to finish). I mean we did have to play up to certain levels and show the trick, but instead of just showing the trick they included all the footage for some unknown reason, which was lame. And if you thought those suits were god awful, you should have seen the other ones they had for us, holy cow were they bad.

Thanks again,

Donn Nauert

PS. My name is Donnell, hence the extra "n", hehe

After the credits

Sometimes at the end of a movie or a show, they'll have funny outtakes like flubbed lines, one of the actors hitting the other one in the crotch with a pie, or Jackie Chan cracking his face open on the front of a moving train they lit on fire. At the end of the Video Game Team's videos, they smash together whatever the fuck they have on tape. In this case, it's three nerdy kids acting like they're seeing something amazing off camera. In fact, one's so amazed he has to pantomime wiping sweat off his forehead.

Incidentally, he had the exact same reaction when he saw his first real life boob. At age 37.

I think they're probably amazed that the Guinness Book actually gives a fuck about video game high scores, but like Donn showed in his letter, every single time I come up with a theory about the US Video Game Team, I'm completely wrong. Also in this video: team member JIM! whines incoherently about how he screwed up his Double Dragon tip and a useful hint on how you can fuck up your Nintendo by yanking a game out while it's still on.

I wish I was joking.

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